Mario Cesare, Sardinia, Italy

This sensitively restored farmhouse in the village of Gergei makes a tranquil base for a go-slow Sardinian retreat

Nestled in the sleepy village of Gergei - just an hour's drive north of Cagliari - this traditional Sardinian farmhouse was once the home of local artist Mario Cesare. Having been sensitively restored by Giulia Lai, it today offers guests an off-grid abode in which to relax and recharge. Lai, who spent much of her childhood admiring the 18th-century cottage, left a career in London to return to her homeland and renovate the property, carefully preserving the structural shell through replacing tired bamboo ceilings, nurturing overgrown gardens and adding larger doors to allow for a better flow of natural light.

Original furnishings such as straw chairs, wooden cabinets and tables pay homage to Cesare, whose legacy the couple are also upholding within the wider community. A recent collaboration with local creatives saw playful murals honouring the late artist being installed across town.

Arriving in the mid-summer heat, we welcome the cool, airy set-up - think textured walls and ceilings laced with bunches of dried lavender, corners filled with ceramics and glassware, and tables topped with vintage lamps and the type of candleholders you'd like to borrow for your own dinner party. In many ways, the property feels like a museum, but thanks to Lai's presence, the vibe is very much one of a good friend's house.

The farmhouse door, left, and host Giulia Lai with a plate of freshly harvested fruit.


There are two spacious double bedrooms, notable for their rustic charm - all bare-brick walls, exposed wooden beams, elegant platform beds, antique furnishings and handmade ceramics. Airy whitewashed en-suites have oval countertop sinks, casement windows and walk-in showers made chic with dried plants, art deco tiles and accent mirrors. It's worth noting that while there are two different rooms to choose from, only individual stays or group bookings are accepted at one given time - meaning the second bedroom is closed off to solo travellers. The main bedroom has a private garden, kitted out with a hammock, plush cushions and deckchairs.

What's for breakfast?

A seasonal breakfast spread is served in the leafy outdoor courtyard, with sweeping views across the surrounding hills accompanied by the distant chimes of church bells. During our stay, we tried Italian peach pies, buttery croissants, organic yoghurt, fruits at a level of ripeness we didn't think possible and the sort of cheese that melts in your mouth. The coffee? The tastiest espresso we've ever tried.

How about lunch and dinner?

Lunch and dinner aren't on the menu. But, rest assured, nearby guesthouse Domu Antiga (a boutique stay headed up by Lai's brother) is on hand to deliver the goods. There, a seasonally changing menu of traditional, authentic fare is crafted by "Mamma" Maria Grazia, whose courgette tartlets, gnocchetti, and creamy vegetable risotto take some beating. Dessert is a fluffy dough confection filled with fresh ricotta cheese, spiced saffron and orange peel - a marvellous mix. Three courses will set you back around £30.

Mario Cesare, Breakfast
Mario Cesare, Breakfast Spread

The breakfast set-up, left, and a sneak peek at what's on the menu.

Is there a bar?

There's no bar area as such, but Lai will happily whip you up a glass of something great - at a reasonable hour.


There's no gym, nor pool, but a stellar selection of books and art supplies are at guests' disposal. You'll find us beneath one of the fig trees, brush in hand.

How about their green credentials?

Most of the fresh breakfast ingredients are grown in the garden. Should you opt to use the candles provided in bedrooms, you'll be doing your bit to help reduce electricity consumption.

What about accessibility?

There are narrow, crumbling stone staircases dotted around the property, making it unsuitable for those with mobility issues.

What's the crowd like?

Don't expect to see anyone other than your attentive hosts during your visit. Oh, and the odd wild boar might make an appearance, too.

Things I should know

The town of Gergei is incredibly remote, with little in the way of transport links. We'd strongly suggest renting a car if you wish to explore the island.

Within a short walk I can find…

Nearby guesthouse Domu Antiga offers cooking classes. Led by chef Grazia, foodies will learn some of the secrets of traditional Sardinian cuisine. Bread-making courses and cheese and ricotta workshops are available, too.

The town's beautiful vineyard, Olianas, champions natural farming and low-intervention winemaking. Make its rosé your souvenir of choice.

The Lowdown

Doubles cost from £147 a night.

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